As promised, here is my new bench. First of all, I am building this one to replace the one I have been swearing at for years. I built it many years ago. I started it with good intentions but not a lot of thought. By the time I got the top made, I had a lot of work to do and hurried up and finished it. Consequently, the base did not come out very good, but it worked. I always figure I would fix it someday but you know how that goes. This new version has been in my head for a long time and I finally had the time and money to get it out.
My first thoughts were to the vises. I had bought a used Veritas twin screw vise some years ago and put it aside for someday. For the front vise I decided I wanted a patternmakers vise. I looked up the Emmert vise but you can’t touch one of those for less than $1,000 unless you get real lucky. There is a Chinese clone available for a decent price so I took a chance on it. I got it from Woodcraft. So, now I have my vises and need to think about the bench. I know I wanted heavy, solid, maple and have a recessed tool well. I did a lot of research on line. I looked at pictures, read reviews and blogs. I got the basic design and drew it up with Google sketchup. I wanted to find any problems before I got into it. I measured a lot because I wanted it to be as big as I could get without being too big. Finally I have all the details figured out and I can start cutting.
I bought a pile of 8/4 soft maple and started making sawdust. The top is laminated strips 1 7/8 thick x 3 1/8 wide and about 7 feet long. I glued them up in two batches,planed them and glued them together. I ran the whole slab through the sander and had my top. Next, I got into mounting the vises. For the patternmakers vise, there is a lot of excavating to do. You have to route out the underside of the top for all the hardware to fit. It looks like this: (click on the images for a bigger view)
For the other vise it’s a little simpler. After the skirting is on the top, you simply drill a couple of holes and install the hardware. Here’s a shot of the finished vise.
It works great. Much better than the old vises I had on my other bench. For the skirting, I wanted it to wrap around, but i didn’t want any problems with cross grain. The top is quarter sawn, so I know there wouldn’t be much movement but it still needed room. I ended up doing something like a breadboard for the ends. I made a toungue on the end and a groove in the skite board. I glued the front third and put a bolt in a slotted hole for the back. I just screwed and glued the corners. I saw no need for fancy joinery there. I though a lot about the recess in the back. I wanted it deep enough to hold things, but not so big I lose things in it. It could have been a little smaller, but I think it’s fine.
The bottom is some left over white oak I had.
So now I turn my attention to the base. For a top this heavy, I need a solid base. I glued up four legs to make 4″ x 4″ posts. The feet are 4″ x 3″ thick. Simple mortise and tenon joinery for the whole thing. I did bolt the legs to the feet in addition to the joinery. This thing is solid. I made the feet a little long and offset the legs because the tool recess hangs out in the back. I put a piece of MDF on the bottom stretchers for a shelf and put some things there. Eventually, I plan to add a cabinet with drawers. I’ll get some pictures when I get to that. The whole thing is finished with my usual oil finish. About a half gallon in all. Here are a couple of shots of the finished bench.
It seems like I finished it just in time because I have a bunch of work coming in and I am looking forward to seeing how it works out. I’ll let you know.
That’s it for now. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have. Visit my website too. I have some work to do there too.
Til next time let’s all wish for sunny days and dry roads.